Denton: Howard Requests Trade; Major Decision to Make
By John Denton
July 2, 2012
ORLANDO – The Dwight Howard era with the Orlando Magic could soon be coming to an end, but General Manager Rob Hennigan made one thing clear on Monday: The Magic will only make a trade that is in the best interests of the organization and it will not necessarily be beholden to the all-star center’s requests.
Hennigan said on Monday that Howard reiterated a trade request last Friday when the two met in Los Angeles. Specifically, Howard asked to be traded to the Brooklyn Nets where he could play in the New York City market and team with close friend Deron Williams. Hennigan, who was hired by the Magic on June 21, described the talks with Howard (privately) and with his agent, Dan Fegan, as ``engaging and polite’’ and ``emotion neutral,’’ but he made no promises as what direction Orlando would go in the coming days and weeks.
``As I told Dwight, `I don’t know, I need to think about what you are telling me. I want to take some time and think about everything,’’’ Hennigan said of the talks.
``We’re going to continue to map out what we feel is in the best interests of our team. Any decision that we decide to go forward with will be one that we feel puts our team in a position to be successful.’’
Howard, a five-time All-NBA selection, is under contract with the Magic through next season. Last November, Howard initially asked for a trade and submitted a list of three teams – the Nets, Mavericks and Lakers – that he would prefer to be traded to. He ultimately decided to stay with the Magic, waiving his opt-out clause on March 15.
But for weeks since the end of the season, Howard has again demanded a trade to the relocated Nets. He told Yahoo! Sports that if he isn’t traded to the Nets that he will play out the 2012-13 season and then become an unrestricted free agent next July.
``There’s only one team on my list and if I don’t get traded there, I’ll play the season out and explore my free agency after that,’’ Howard said.
As for the Magic’s pursuit of their next coach, Hennigan said the process of identifying candidates had begun in earnest and official interviews could start in the coming days. Asked how the Howard situation could affect the coaching search, Hennigan said there are plenty of worthy candidates who have expressed a desire to be the Magic’s next head coach.
Hennigan said: ``The coach we do end up hiring is someone who wants to coach the Orlando Magic.’’
Hennigan said that Howard’s health is progressing nicely after he had back surgery on April 20 for a herniated disc and the removal of bone fragments. Howard has remained in Los Angeles much of the past two months to rehabilitate his back and Hennigan feels he should be ready to go by the start of training camp.
``In terms of his health, I can tell you that I feel Dwight’s rehabilitation process is progressing in the right direction,’’ Hennigan said of Howard, who won’t compete in the Summer Olympics because of the back rehabilitation. ``I do not believe that his health will be an issue going forward.’’
Because the Nets have limited trade assets and Howard is considered the NBA’s best center, a deal between Orlando and Brooklyn could be difficult to consummate. Almost certainly, a third team would have to be involved in the transaction in order to give the Magic a combination of draft picks, elite players and/or players with expiring contracts in exchange for Howard, a six-time all-star.
``He’s Dwight Howard and one of the best players in the NBA, so a lot of teams have interest in Dwight, as they should,’’ Hennigan said. ``It’s in our best interests to continue to analyze what’s the best thing for us and how to go about making that decision.
``We need to do what’s in the best interests of our organization,’’ Hennigan continued. ``I know I’ve said that 60,000 times in the past four days, but we’re going to analyze all options and the full menu of what we have in front of us. If we need to make a decision, we’ll make one.’’
Hennigan said he can understand the frustrations of Magic fans who are upset that Howard wants to leave the only NBA team that he’s ever played for. Hennigan stressed that the Magic are looking for the resolution that will best aid the organization, but he stressed that there are no timetables or set plans as of yet.
``Our fans deserve some details and some information. What I can assure everybody is that we’re going to do what we feel is in the best interest of the organization,’’ he said. ``We’re within a fluid process right now. It’s one we feel we shouldn’t put any parameters on. We continue to work through all of the information that we’re gathering. We’ll make the decision at some point and we feel it will be the one that puts us in the best position.’’
The Magic also have a decision to make on the future of shooting guard J.J. Redick, whose $6 million contract for next season is not guaranteed. The Magic have to either pick up Redick’s option or waive him by July 8. Hennigan has had several talks with Redick and is still undecided about the reserve shooting guard’s future in Orlando.
``With J.J., we have to make a decision this week and we’re still working through that process,’’ Hennigan said. ``J.J. is someone who is about the right things. He brings a professionalism and a work ethic and a commitment to the team concept that would work around here if that’s the direction we decide to go on him.’’
As for Jameer Nelson, the Magic are continuing to pursue the veteran point guard even after he opted out of his contract on Friday to become an unrestricted free agent. Like Howard, Nelson has spent his entire eight-year NBA career with the Magic and he’s been a co-captain for each of the last three seasons. Both Nelson and the Magic hope that his career continues in Orlando, but the two sides are still working to agree on terms of a new contract.
``We’ve continued to be in discussions with Jameer and his representatives. It’s our hope that he remains here in Orlando and remains in a Magic uniform,’’ Hennigan said. ``There needs to be a mutual desire for that to happen and I remain hopeful that there is one.’’
As for Howard, he issued a trade request prior to last season and ended up playing most of the year with the Magic. The same scenario could possibly unfold again if the Magic don’t find the kind of deal that is suitable to the franchise’s wishes.
Hennigan said that ultimately his wish is to acquire players in return who want to be in Orlando and build something special with the Magic.
``We want guys who want to be here,’’ he stressed. ``We want guys who are about the team, guys who are committed to something that’s bigger than themselves and guys who love the game and are hungry to represent this organization in a unified fashion. We want guys who are about the right things.’’
John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Magic and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.
Follow John Denton on Twitter here